Daily Archives: March 20, 2007

25. I’m lookin’ for one thing real tonight

Otter asked me what my favorite Dan Bern song was. I still don’t really know, but for a while I considered One Thing Real to be it. He seemed to play it every time I saw him live the first couple of years. The one time I really remember was the time I worried about him most.

He’d been promised the Music Hall at the Birchmere. This is the same Birchmere that launched Mary Chapin Carpenter among others. The new Birchmere has a large room with a stage and seating for hundreds of people. Birchmere has a policy that if you don’t sell a certain number of tickets before the show day, they don’t put you in the Music Hall. My friend’s boyfriend worked there at the time and told me the bad news.

I worried that Dan would be upset that he’d been denied the Music Hall. I got there early to get a good seat in the Bandstand – Pretty much just an extension of the bar. I didn’t have to worry. There were a handful of people there. I sat front and center. I could put my feet on the stage if I’d dared. (for those of you thinking of ever seeing Dan Bern live – I’d suggest you not sit that close. See, he gets really into his songs and sometimes saliva is involved. If you like that kind of thing, then go for it. Otherwise, sit a couple of rows back).

So anyway, he got on stage and seemed out of it as I’d worried. He’d plugged his guitar in and sang a couple of songs. Then he sang my favorite, One Thing Real.

When he got to this part:

I’m up here singin’ these songs every night
Sometimes I wanna just make ’em all up on the spot
Maybe they wouldn’t rhyme too good, they might not make sense
But then at least I wouldn’t be repeating myself
I’m lookin’ for one thing real tonight

He stopped singing but still strummed his his guitar and he looked at the small audience. Then told us that if we wanted to we could crowd around the stage and he’d sing unplugged – since it was such a small audience. In retrospect, perhaps he was not angry – maybe disappointed, but wanted to give us a good performance as possible. And that meant intimate.

Although I was worried for him at the time and didn’t really like the show, a friend gave me a CD he’d burned from a recording he’d made of the show. All-in-all, it was a good show and the intimacy made it all the better. If he had been on the big stage in the Music Hall it would have been so different.

Irish memories

A couple of days late for St. Patrick’s Day, but heck, time flies when you’re drinking Guinness.

Winter 1979 I hitchhiked through Ireland with a couple of friends. We stayed in youth hostels and visited Dublin, Bray, Wicklow, Waterford and Blarney. While walking through one of the villages an old woman, standing outside her cottage asked us if we were Americans. When replied in the affirmative, she insisted we come inside for tea.

It seemed strange that she invited us for tea but had us make the tea and cut the bread. But she was pretty old…

Anyway the bread was delicious and we asked if she’d tell us how to make it. I wrote it down, and then found a very similar recipe in a book I had, so this is a combination of the two recipes.

4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup raisins
½ cup currants
2 eggs
½ cup butter
1 cup milk

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Sprinkle a little over the currants and raisins. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (I use a food processor), then add beaten eggs and the milk. Mix in currants and raisins.

Turn onto floured board and mold into round loaf. Place in greased spider (black iron skillet) and bake 1 hour in oven at 350°.

Please note – this is a sweet bread, not a traditional soda bread, but it is more authentic than the soda breads I’ve purchased.

We pretty much lived on bread, eggs and Orange Squash during our week in Ireland. None of us had much money – in fact I returned to London with only a few dollars left. I returned to the states with less than a dollar to my name.